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Watch: Iceland's melting Vatnajökull National Park fights for World Heritage Status

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By Sinead Barry  with Associated Press
Watch: Iceland's melting Vatnajökull National Park fights for World Heritage Status
Copyright  Associated Press

Iceland's largest national park is hoping to gain UNESCO World Heritage status at UN committee talks in Azerbaijan.

Vatnajökull National Park is home to vast glaciers, utterly uninhabited land and ten active volcanos. Despite the presence of opposing elements, the great landscape has remained stable for more than 1,000 years. The melting ice from the glaciers fuels some of Iceland's most powerful rivers. The seasonal ebb and flow of the ice is critical in maintaining the stability of the ecosystem of Vatnajökull, which covers 14% of Iceland.

Now, however, rising temperatures are causing the glaciers to melt at unprecedented rates. Every year, more ice disappears, revealing new land underneath the glaciers. In the last century alone, Vatnajökull has lost 10% of its volume.

The area is so unlike anything else on earth that it has been used as a case study by astronauts. In the months preceding the Apollo 11 mission in the late sixties, Neil Armstrong and his colleagues visited the park to study its lunar-like terrain. Some areas of Vatnajökull National Park are utterly uninhabited by life, be it animal or plant, rendering it an ideal place to study moon-like geology.

Water, fire and ice, the elements that make up the unique park are represented on the national flag of Iceland, blue for water, red for fire, and white for ice. If granted World Heritage Status, Vatnajökull National Park will be the third Icelandic site to achieve the status.

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Video editor • Francois Razy